Cypriot officials announced on Thursday that a downed Greek wartime aircraft may have been located during excavations, near a memorial on the outskirts of Nicosia, Cyprus. The aircraft is said to have been downed by friendly fire in the first days of the Turkish invasion on the island 41 years ago.
“Initial findings are positive that the aircraft is here,” said Cyprus’ Humanitarian Affairs Commissioner Fotis Fotiou. The discovery has raised hopes that authorities will be able to recover the remains of the 19 soldiers who were trapped inside the aircraft when it fell. In this case the remains will be returned to the families almost half a century later.
“My message to the relatives is that we will do whatever it takes to find the remains of their loved ones so they can be buried according to our Orthodox Christian customs and traditions, as well as with all appropriate honors,” added the official.
Furthermore, Fotiou stated that the second and more intensive phase of excavations will begin next week, with the assistance of foreign experts who specialize in military-related excavations, from Canada, Australia and the Netherlands. Authorities fear that there may still be explosives and ammunition inside the aircraft, thus making the excavation process more difficult.
The plane went down early on July 22, 1974, due to friendly fire from the airport’s Greek Cypriot defenders. The aircraft was one of 13 Greek airplanes that arrived in Cyprus to help defend the island against the Turkish invasion that was triggered when supporters of Cyprus’ union with Greece mounted a short-lived coup.